As human beings, we identify the hardships in our lives by calling them hurdles, mountains or roadblocks. We spend our lives working to overcome them as quickly as possible; however, these hardships can begin to pile, making it difficult to move forward. This is when we take hold of the “constant” in our life, and for Matthew Cogswell, his “constant” is Hodges University.
Originally from Connecticut, Cogswell and his family moved to Cape Coral, Florida, just months after he was born. After graduating from Mariner High School, his goal was to enter the military, and at 17 years old, he signed up for delayed entry with the U.S. Marines. When preparing to leave for basic training a year later, issues related to his medical records and negative correspondence from recruiters led him to forgo his future with the Marines.
“I called a buddy of mine whose dad was a captain with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LSCO). I told him what was going on, and he told me since I was only 18, I couldn’t do any type of certified position, but they did have clerical positions open,” he said.
Performing clerical duties for one year, he applied to become a corrections officer at 19. Sponsored by the LCSO to attend the academy, he received his certification as a corrections officer and served from 2006 to 2010.
Admitting his regret for not entering the military, he attempted to contact a Reserve recruiter; however, after repeated phone calls and emails, weeks went by with no response. His attempt to join the U.S. Air Force failed as well after a less than enthusiastic recruiter mentioned Cogswell should lose weight before being considered.
Facing one disappointment after another, he decided to try for the U.S. Army in 2010, saying, “I went in and the recruiter just loved me. He kept telling the other recruiters how great of a candidate I was and how much I reminded him of himself.”
Serving as a military police (MP) officer, Cogswell spent five months in one-station unit training at Fort Leonard Wood before transferring to Fort Bragg, which is home to the airborne and special unit forces. “I got assigned to an airborne unit, and I was there for two and a half years before I was sent to airborne school at Fort Benning for three weeks,” he said.
Returning to Fort Bragg after his schooling, he performed various jobs while on base, all as an MP. Volunteering for multiple deployments, Cogswell was selected to deploy, but after two months of pre-deployment training, he learned his unit would not be deploying.
Throughout his final two and a half years in the service, he worked as a desk sergeant before overseeing the arms room, which meant 18-20 hour days, five to six days each week. At the same time, Cogswell began dating his future wife, Nicole, who was stationed three hours away in Virginia.
With the stress mounting, he contacted the LSCO in 2014 to inquire about being rehired once he fulfilled his time with the military, but after returning to Cape Coral in spring 2015, his efforts fell short, leaving him disappointed.
Witnessing the successes and achievements of his friends who attended college, he decided it was time to earn a degree. “I started trying to figure out what kind of degree I was looking for and asking ‘what do I want to do with the rest of my life,’” he said. Researching various schools, he discovered Hodges and noticed many positive reviews, especially from veterans with regard to the Veterans Services Center (VSC), Yellow Ribbon Program and American Legion.
In summer 2015, Cogswell enrolled in Hodges’ criminal justice program; however, the adjustment period was not easy. Not only was it difficult becoming a student again, but also the adjustment from military to civilian life took its toll. Six months prior to leaving the military, he began applying for various work positions but heard nothing. Once arriving back home and discovering the LCSO was not possible, he applied and accepted a part-time position with Target in April 2015, working less than 30 hours a week.
“Luckily I had my GI Bill,” he said. Although not the ideal situation, he and his wife were appreciative of the opportunity, but the low pay, few hours and lack of benefits became difficult to accept. Trying to balance school, work and a home life, things seem to worsen between him and his wife.
“I remember emailing Dr. [Daniel] Pontzer and Dr. [Brian] O’Reilly and telling them what was going on in my life,” he said. Discussing some of the issues surrounding his situation, Pontzer provided Cogswell with advice related to life and a career. In addition, Cogswell sought the help of Hodges’ counseling services to assist him in working through the issues he was facing.
Reflecting over the past two years, Cogswell admits, “It’s been one bad thing after the other. The one constant thing I’ve had going for me is Hodges and plugging away at my degree.” Balancing his time as a full-time student and part-time range safety officer at a gun range in Naples, which he started in November 2016, Cogswell is looking to the future, which may include reenlisting in the military.
Contacting a U.S. Army recruiter in January 2017 has given him a new drive to prove to himself that he can finish his degree and get back in the military. With his degree, Cogswell will be able to qualify for Office Candidate School (OCS), which would provide him the opportunity to become a commissioned officer. Setting a goal to become a major or lieutenant colonel, his plan is to pursue a career within the military that, along with his degree, will provide transferable skills once he retires.
Graduating with his bachelor’s degree in fall 2017, Cogswell credits Hodges for helping him survive, saying, “Hodges has always been there for me, and in the past few years, with life feeling as if it’s falling apart, without Hodges and without the Veterans Association (VA), I honestly don’t know I would have survived.”